What began as a simple studio exploration of my day job as a floral stylist has turned into a series of projects that explore the unexpected, and multifaceted cultural significance of flowers. How frivolous! But as it turns out, angiosperms are not only the most mysterious and productive evolutionary species but they produce all our major food crops, are colonizers’ trophies procured for monarchs, and hold an important seat in Art History. Other accomplishments include (but are not limited to): the commodity responsible for the first economic bubble; the subject of an endless amount of poetry, the magic ingredient in perfume; the only multibillion dollar global agricultural product without caloric value.
My work has focused exclusively on the subject of flowers: from their wild origins to their most cultivated versions as supermarket bouquets. The work has taken the form of sculpture, photography, video, lectures, installation and printmaking. I explore the mediums of glass, metals, industrial printing, and flowers themselves.
Cultivation as Mutation
In 2009, I travelled to the Indian Himalayas in search of the wildest alpine flower: the blue poppy. Unlike many flowers, the alpine blue poppy remains extremely rare because of its inability to thrive outside its remote native context. I returned from this trek curious about how wildflowers became the commercial flowers we know and buy today. In 2013, I travelled to Bogota, Colombia and visited flower farms and their international corporate offices. I traced their trade routes to Miami and the auction houses in Aalsmeer, Holland. From there, I became interested in the hardiness that has been cultivated into flowers by the market demands of longevity and necessity of travel. In Colombia, I discovered the industry of ‘eternalized’ flowers. These products are the results of rapid dehydration of real flowers and a process of rehydration with a glycerin-based cocktail and synthetic textile dyes. This impossible pigmentation and preservation– and the consumer desire for these zombie-like products– led me to make a series of hot cast glass sculptures with inclusions of the carbon remains of flowers
Equivalencies as Mutation
From there, I dug into the history of artificial flowers and the handicraft that preceded the mass market dollar store versions. I looked at techniques that ranged from ancient Egyptian flowers made out of thin metal leaf to the kitchen table assembly lines of entire families working by candlelight in tenements to assemble fabric flowers during the industrial revolution. I made a series of sculptures using deconstructed artificial flowers made in China and reconstructed them into implosible, exquisite corpse-style, forms.
Extraction as Mutation
Most recently, I am exploring the psychogeography of botanical thefts from around the world. A major, and very economically important, part of colonial expeditions was plant hunting. A practice of sending adventuresome botanists on expeditions to find and collect plants unknown to the western world. They would then bring them home for scientific study and propagation. This is why British gardens are so famous. But if seen through the lense of post-colonial theory, these gardens may start to appear differently. These botanical exploits were really glorified robberies motivated by misguided altruism at best and classic greed in most circumstances. For my newest work, I am tracing the wild origins of some of our most common cut flowers.
The fertility of flowers, the presumed fragility and beauty of them have made them cultural stand-ins for the female body across western culture. Within my work, one of the arguments I make, is that the materiality of flowers represent all of our bodies, male/female/non binary/cyborg/etc. The human conditions of birth, joy, trauma, morality and mortality all meet simultaneously in this one girly subject. The subject of so many Dutch still lives, especially the ones painted by women, isn’t so simple after all.